Gastroparesis in Children

Gastroparesis is a condition in which the stomach muscles do not work properly. As a result, food empties from the stomach very slowly, or not at all. Children with this disorder may feel full all the time, be very nauseous, have pain or vomit undigested food left in the stomach. There isn't yet a cure for gastroparesis. In some cases, it gets better after a few months to years, and in others it may be a lifelong condition. But with proper management and diet, specialists can help you and your child control the symptoms.

What are the symptoms of gastroparesis?

The most common symptom of gastroparesis is vomiting. Children with this condition often get sick late in the day after a meal and commonly vomit foods eaten several hours earlier. Other symptoms may include:

  • upper abdominal discomfort or pain
  • feeling full after small amounts of food
  • nausea
  • bloating

What causes gastroparesis?

Experts don't yet know exactly what causes gastroparesis. In many cases, it starts after an infection. Other risk factors include:

  • surgery, particularly fundoplication, a procedure that controls reflux in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) 
  • medications, such as anticholinergics and certain chemotherapy drugs
  • congenital defects that affect the stomach or abdomen, such as gastroschisis, which cause a baby's intestines to stick out of the body
  • other underlying conditions, including diabetes, hypothyroidism, neurologic disorders, or metabolic disorders such as Riley Day syndrome

How we care for gastroparesis

If we suspect that your child has gastroparesis, we will recommend motility testing to evaluate and diagnose the condition. Boston Children's Hospital is known worldwide for our advanced gastrointestinal motility testing services. In fact, many of our motility doctors are pioneers in the development of the newest, noninvasive tests. Once your child has been diagnosed, the team of experienced clinicians in Boston Children's Motility and Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders Center will work with you and your child to develop a personalized treatment plan that draws from the latest therapies and research available.